Then again, some secrets hold more power than others. In the 1970s, on a visit home, she came across her mother's scrapbooklike journal. Keaton was already a superstar. She exploded onto the scene in the original Broadway production of Hair, scored a monumental movie hit with The Godfather, and was on her way to winning a Best Actress Oscar for Annie Hall. But what she found in her mom's journal cut through the glitter. An entry dated August 2, 1976, read: "WATCH OUT ON THIS PAGE. For you, the possible reader in the future, this takes courage." Then came an entry full of vitriol about Diane's dad — or "you frigin' bastard," as Dorothy labeled him. It wasn't until Dorothy's death in 2008 that Keaton found the courage to look again at the journals — 85 in all — and the torment hidden within.
On the outside, Dorothy was just another suburban housewife ( her glory moment was winning the "Mrs. Los Angeles" pageant for homemakers in 1955), but inside she felt trapped by domesticity, by her failures as an aspiring writer and photographer, and, in later years, by "that strange and cruel disease" that took away her memory.
"Reading her journals was really difficult," Keaton says, her voice softening. "I felt for her so much. Though we were very close, I got to know her in ways I never thought of." Keaton hadn't realized the extent to which her mother stifled her own ambitions or used Keaton's dad, who was occasionally abusive toward Dorothy, as a scapegoat for her lack of success. The more she read, the more Keaton would "get all upset about my mom, and the sense of frustration she felt," she says. "But also about how selfish I'd been, how I didn't always address her as a person, how I failed her sometimes."
One passage in particular still pains Keaton to ponder. In 1975, fearful that her mind was starting to give way to dementia, Dorothy wrote, "I'm no one to anyone. People look at me and see a midlife woman on the downhill slide. 55 is approaching. My brain is getting thinner. If there's one thing I don't want to lose, it's my ability to think. I feel old and intolerant. It's like I'm shutting the world out."
At 66, Keaton could not have a more different view of life than the one her mom had.
"If anyone embraces the world around her, it's Diane," says Lawrence Kasdan, who directed Darling Companion. "When you consider she's been a leading lady for 40 years, it's remarkable how much vibrancy and determination she has." He tells the story of a scene where Keaton and Kline are caught in a rainstorm in the wilderness while searching for their runaway mutt. "We shot in a downpour in the woods, and it was freezing cold," Kasdan says. "Diane's character ends up sliding down a hill and landing on her butt. She insisted on doing her own stunts. She got soaking wet and filthy but managed to do this very intimate scene at the end with Kevin. She's different from any person I can think of."
Sarah Jessica Parker, who befriended Keaton while filming the 2005 comedy The Family Stone, says, "Diane has never subscribed to the conventional way of doing things. She's endlessly curious and lives boldly. It doesn't matter if she's at dinner with you or on the Today show, she's going to tell you what she thinks. It's never to shock or show off. It's just, Diane is who Diane is, unapologetically."
That's for sure. Any conversation with Keaton is a slightly skittery affair, popping quickly from topic to topic, and each new subject stirs Keaton's passion as much as the last.
"My thinking about plastic surgery is this," she says the second the question comes up. "I haven't had it, but never say never. Because when you do, you are definitely going to go there. I said I would never have intercourse before I was married, and I did. I said I would never go to a psychiatrist, and I spent much of my life in psychoanalysis. I've done all kinds of things I said I wouldn't do and, of course, now I'm glad. Thrilled."